WARNING: SHOCKING GRAPHICS OF POLICE BRUTALITY IN KENYA
WARNING: THE PHOTOS BELOW PORTRAY GRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF POLICE REPRESSION AND MURDER IN KENYA. Text by Tom Keefer, photos by Mbugua Kaba of People Against Torture.
On the 26th of June 2004, a peaceful procession of mourners wound their way through the streets of Butere in the Western Province of Kenya. Their objective was to bring the body of a young man, Nimrod Sianji Okwayo to the place where he had been tortured to death by members of the notoriously brutal administration police.
Local customs dictate that the deceased be paraded past the site of his death, and the mourners also hoped to make a political statement against torture and police murder. The date of the funeral on June 26th coincided with the International Day Against Torture sponsored by the UN, and was marked with protests and commemorations organized by the group People Against Torture in locales across Kenya.
Nimrod Sianji Okwayo had been arrested by the administration police at 5:30 am in the morning, and they broke down the door to his house. Two hours later he was dead, with massive wounds to his face, chest and genitals caused by police beating and torture. Though the police at first claimed that he had died from poisoning, an autopsy revealed that the blows to his body had caused his death.
Several days later when the mourners approached the police station carrying Nimrod Sianji Okwayo’s body they were ambushed by two police officers armed with rifles who were hiding in bushes just off to the side of the road.
As the procession approached the gate of the police station, police officers opened fire on those carrying the funeral casket and palm fronds at point blank range.
One man was fatally shot in the head with a G-3 rifle, while two others were severely wounded by the rifle fire. One of these men, shot through the abdomen and hip is the father of a young family, and it is unlikely that he will ever regain full use of his body.
Activists from the group, People Against Torture (PAT) were invited to attend the funeral procession and were in the process of filming the event when the police ambushed the march. Mbugua Kaba of PAT was filming the event and continued to film throughout the police attack. In addition to the film he captured he took the photos accompanying this text on the memory card of his video camera while the tape was recording.
When the shooting subsided, agitated police officers ran up to him and threatened to shoot him as well if he did not immediately hand over the tape. He handed over the video tape of the event, but held on to the memory chip with these photos on it.
Following the shooting, the police officers planted machetes on the bodies of the two men they had shot and claimed to other police officers that they had been attacked by the crowd and that they had fired shots in self defense.
Mbugua Kaba’s video tape proved that this was not the case, and along with Gitahi Githuku (another activist with PAT present at the funeral) they were able to bring pressure to bear on Mohamed Amin, the Provincial Criminal Investigating Officer in Kakamega that resulted in the arrest of the two officers involved in the shooting. For some reason the officers did not destroy the video tape, and it will serve as powerful evidence against them. The tape remains in the hands of the police officials investigating this incident, and they have promised to release it to PAT once the charged officers appear in court.
People Against Torture continues to agitate for the provision of full compensation for those killed and injured in this and other such incidents of police torture and murder, which are so common in Kenya today. The group calls upon international allies to put pressure on the Kibaki government to denounce the actions of these police officers and to provide full compensation to the families of the victims and survivors of this murderous police attack.
Just last week on July 7th, 2004, police officers in the city of Kisumu opened fire with live ammunition on protestors agitating for a new constitution and celebrating the anniversary of Saba Saba, a historic date in the uprising of the Kenyan people against the Moi regime. They killed one protestor and seriously injured at least 10 others (including two school children) with live ammunition. And just a few days before that, on July 3rd 2004, police officers again in Kisumu, shot and killed a man in protests over the failure of the Kibaki government to ratify the draft constitution of Kenya.
For more information in audio, video and photos about ongoing struggles in Kenya, please see the Autonomy & Solidarity website at ==> http://auto_sol.tao.ca/ and http://auto_sol.tao.ca/taxonomy/page/or/204
(The information in this article comes from interviews with Mbugua Kaba and Gitahi Githuku- two eyewitnesses to the shootings in Butere- and from mainstream media sources in Kenya). Mbugua Kaba, the videographer who took these photos can be reached at email@example.com. Higher resolution copies of all of these photos are available at http://fr.freeshell.org/kenya
Edited by Jared Odero
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